Dallas emcee Brandon Smith took it back while also advancing hip-hop forward. Most artists fit into one lane, trap rap, weed rap, backpack rap, Brandon Smith is able to change lanes at will. On his debut self-titled mixtape “Brandon Smith” the emcee opens up everything to the listener. His vices, his political views, his relationship history, all of it there for the listener to absorb and reflect on as Smith is doing the same thing. I got a chance to sit down and ask him some in-depth questions about the tape and the process of making it. If you like what you read give “Brandon Smith” a listen right HERE and keep it locked on DeadEndHipHop for more interviews with up and coming artists.
DeadEndHipHop: Who is Brandon Smith for those who aren’t familiar?
Brandon Smith: Brandon Smith is a nineteen year old rapper, producer, and photographer from DFW.
DEHH: Let’s start here before we really dive headfirst into the music. How did Brandon Smith become the artist that we hear on this album?
Brandon Smith: I went through a lot, especially while making this album. Life after high school hasn’t been easy for me, and it caused me to go through a lot of changes. I’ve been struggling a lot mentally, which had made me lose weight over the past year (almost 40 pounds), while coming close to giving up on everything. However, this played a major role in me creating this album, dealing with the feelings I was experiencing in the best way I could: through music. In my music, I talk about my life because I know a lot of people my age go through what I go through, or have gone through what i’ve gone through, like having an absent parent, going through a bad break up, dealing with mental illness, so I use what my experiences taught me to help relate to others.
DEHH: What motivated you to title the album after your name?
Brandon Smith: The album had a lot of different titles before I finally settled on Brandon Smith. Before, the title was My Lips Are Getting Blacker, before that, it was the Black Brute, but these titles weren’t sticking with me. It was when a friend of mine heard the album and was like “You should self title the album, this is your life on the project” and it made so much sense, since I was basically laying out my experiences on songs produced by me. I wanted it to play out like a sort of autobiography. This album shows a wide range of my thoughts, whether they’re political, ignorant, about wealth, women, regardless, this album shows my inner most complexities, so I thought it was fit to self title it.
DEHH: You said you went through a lot to accomplish this album, not to prick or pry, but what were you going through to get you to this point? You also mentioned how close you were to giving up on everything. As someone who has had some of the same feelings, how did you get out of that place? How did you turn the energy around to create music?
Brandon Smith: I was going through feelings of self hate, loneliness, feeling as if the world would be a better place without me, for reasons that I am not even certain of. I can’t say WAS, as I still often feel these emotions. However, it’s music that gives me the drive to keep trying, to keep pushing. That’s why this album is so important to me, because to me it’s a symbol of perseverance. There were times where I said, fuck this music thing, maybe it’s not for me, and I know that I’ll probably say the same thing tomorrow if it’s a bad day, but this album shows me, that perseverance is key. I hope when people listen, they can feel the same way.
DEHH: Off top one of the things I love about this album is the fact that you’re making some really bold statements and making sure that your name is attached to these statements. I feel like a lot of artists and people in general sometimes hide behind a moniker or a persona. Talk to me a bit about that.
Brandon Smith: I don’t want to hide behind a stage name, or wear a personality that isn’t me. When people listen to my music, and listen to me, I want them to hear every word and know it’s from me. I know my name may not be exciting, or may be common, but the one thing that it is, is a reflection of me. I want the audience to know exactly who I am.
DEHH: One of the coolest parts of this album is that this is all you front to back. Including the beats, where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to making beats?
Brandon Smith: When it comes to production, I’ve always been inspired by artists like J Dilla and Kanye West. I love incorporating sounds of soul into my music, but with BRANDON SMITH, I wanted to also use my inspirations that are drawn from more of my favorite current artists, like Drake, Migos, Earl Sweatshirt, etc. I have always had an eclectic taste in music, I find myself listening to multiple genres at a time, and that made me want to incorporate these different genres into my own music. That’s why when you listen to BRANDON SMITH, you listen to a mix of vintage and modern hip hop that’s based in soul, jazz, funk, reggae, R&B, etc. My musical background is diverse. Therefore, I want that to be displayed through my music.
DEHH: What do you want people to come away with after they listen to your project? Not just from the music but from you the artist?
Brandon Smith: I want people to hear my potential. When people hear my album, I want people to understand that they’re listening to a nineteen year old artist, who will (hopefully) be nominated for Grammys in five years. I also want people to hear my music and to think about where I’m from, and understand that music from Dallas is going to take off as a whole soon, because I feel like we aren’t getting the recognition that we deserve. Most importantly, I want people to hear my words, as they’re words that took a lot of mental strife and dedication to complete. The album could have never been completed, and I want the album to be a celebration of life.
DEHH: You’re a versatile artist, in the beats you make and in the way you rhyme, why do you find it key to switch it up? Why not stay in one carved out lane?
Brandon Smith: Staying in a carved out lane is super boring and mundane to me. I can’t allow myself to stick to one particular style of hip hop, I always like to try new things, to keep it interesting for the listener and myself. When I think of artists like Lil Uzi, I think, he’s good, but what else can he do? Versatility to me, is vital. It’s a showcase of skill and ability. A versatile artist that sticks out to me is XXXtentacion, who is one of my favorites. You never know what style that nigga will hit you with when he gets on a song, and people take notice of this. Fans of music will get tired of an artist quickly if he cannot in some way expand artistically.
DEHH: Given the climate of America, how important do you think it is for artists to create art during these trying times?
Brandon Smith: No matter the medium, artists have to keep the art alive. Art is a powerful vehicle, especially for protest, which is more important than its been in a decade. At a time where America is reaching a low point, artists need to be at their highest level of artistic output, to show that while everything else is sinking, the arts will live.
DEHH: What advice would you give other independent artists trying to make a name for themself?
Brandon Smith: Well, I don’t know if I’m in a position to give advice to other independent artists, because I’m still in the struggle with them. But one thing I can say is, to not make a gimmick or trend out of yourself. I enjoy a lot of music that comes from the current rap landscape, but one thing I notice is the way a lot of artists, especially young ones, are falling into the pattern of following “what’s hot,” which is great for short term success, but I believe being yourself, and not being afraid to create your own style and straying away from trends is what will ensure a longer term of success.
DEHH: Lastly and honestly what I’m extremely interested in, is what’s next for Brandon Smith? Will we see you on tour, will there be more music?
Brandon Smith: There is going to more (and better) music, and there will be visuals that I will work on myself. My goal is for the rap industry to know exactly who I am this year, and for it to be done solely by me. I look to produce more for other artists. I have also been wanting to get into songwriting. If I don’t die first, I know that I have what it takes to be in your top 5.